Does it surprise anyone that an Israeli theater company's staging of "The Merchant of Venice" in London is controversial, and does it surprise anyone that the controversy centers not on the anti-Semitic aspects of the play, but on the (anti-Semitic) demands of anti-Israel activists to scapegoat Israel by boycotting its cultural exports? I was just in the Kennedy Center in Washington last week, and took note on the schedule of an upcoming performance by a Chinese theater troupe. Visits by Chinese artists seldom, if ever, provoke widespread calls for boycott, even though China is engaged in a systematic campaign to wipe-out Tibetan culture, and, more to the point, Tibetans. Only Israel is scapegoated. In a wonderful op-ed in yesterday's Times, Stephen Marche takes note of this unique phenomenon:
Israel, uniquely among nations, suffers from being turned into a synecdoche -- of the part being taken for the whole. The other theater companies involved in the Globe's program -- whether from China, Zimbabwe or the United States -- are simply not subject to the same scrutiny of their nation's politics. No one would think of boycotting the English theater because Britain had been involved in the bloody occupation of two countries in recent memory. That would be absurd. Yet it is not absurd when it comes to Israel.
Marche has written a very powerful piece. Read the whole thing.